Some things never go away, and sometimes that’s a good thing. I lived to tell the story and as time progresses things come to mind which make me wonder if it was all a part of the same thing. So let’s revisit that time we had a carbon monoxide leak.
It was 2015 going into 2016. I was feeling tired all the time; understandable, it had been a busy year and I was probably doing too much as usual, everything at once, so ended up feeling quite burnt out. So that’s PTA, Rainbows, knitting, swimming, football and more – then there’s work and school and the juggling between the two. So I felt tired? Welcome to the club Jo. It was no big deal, we were all tired.
There was nothing which seemed odd and okay, I was forgetful. This much I do remember. I remember being told things verbally and not retaining that information. But I’m old. Probably just the old menopausal brain fog, eh? There’s a perfectly reasonable reason for everything when you find it. Nothing to worry about.
Then of course there’s the Christmas crash. No work for two weeks and just stopping – and it all catches up with you. Family time, having fun, being really tired as you’ve had a busy year. All the normal things everyone goes through.
But it wasn’t that was it. It was probably something else. But I’ve no idea, no indicator when it started.
By early January I was feeling groggy most mornings. I’d wake up with a dull head, a dizzy head, I’d get out of the house and I’d make my way to the station and feel like I was staggering all over the path, couldn’t walk in a straight line.
Ah but I obviously overdid it leading up to Christmas, maybe I’ve not had enough time off to feel normal again. Maybe this is parenthood? We just feel this way all the time and get on with it? Don’t moan, just try stronger coffee, it’ll pass, it’s a virus. If it goes on for too long I’ll go to the doctor, although the last time I went to the doctor they said “it’s a virus, it’ll pass, we can’t do anything about it” so maybe it’s not worth wasting their time. So let’s just leave it, put up and shut up.
I took a day off sick in early 2016. I felt rubbish, I had a day in bed all nice and cosy and warm and tried to rest and sleep it off. Not that being off sick means you stay in bed all day – you have to head to school for pickup and all those things because your child can’t walk themselves home at age six.
It didn’t really help, I still felt odd the next day. Okay, let’s just power on through it. Get on the train, get to work, get a nice strong coffee and another one to really wake me up and then somewhere around the magical 11.30am mark a wave of normality hits you.
The only thing I can describe it as is the moment the headache from the hangover goes. That sudden wave of normality again.
But it’s not a hangover – I only have a couple of glasses of wine on a Friday and Saturday night; that’s not the kind of volume which makes you feel unwell like this. It’s just a virus. A strange virus.
Slowly January turns to February, to March and I’m still feeling unwell. H has an invite to a birthday party – we’re all sat on our bed, H wanted to come and snuggle with us, she’s sat on top of the duvet when all of a sudden she opens her mouth and vomits all over it. This isn’t like her at all – she doesn’t get sick very often. Particularly not like this. “Maybe it’s an ear infection?” I suggest so we try olive oil drops which do little or no good, the dizziness stays.
Everything is so completely, utterly normal. We live our lives. As a family, we go out to places, though I’m really forgetful from time to time – a typical menopause symptom of course.
We dream of moving out of our house, but we have great neighbours and moving means new neighbours – but we’re not fans of our house. The landlady doesn’t really want to spend money on things like new curtains or carpets and we had lived there a few years by this point. We have an awful heating system – it blows hot air into the upstairs landing and into the kitchen and front room. It’s a proper old fashioned heating system – and it wouldn’t surprise me if we were the last house with that sort of heating in the area.
You switch it on, you wait about five minutes and then the noise of a fan starts, and heating comes out of the vents. Our bedrooms are often cold because of the heat distribution so we often keep the doors open in the hope they’ll catch some warmth from the vents on the landing or if we’re feeling extravagant we’ll pop an electric heater on. The landlady increased our rent by over £230 the previous year so money is a little tighter than normal.
So, there’s absolutely nothing going on in our very ordinary lives other than I feel rubbish every morning and there’s no reason why, but I’m too busy to find out why because I’ll be told the virus will go when it’s ready, so why bother?
Of course, if you know the story, you know what happens next. We had our Gas Safety Check – in April. It was due in the January. The engineer went into the loft and came down pretty swiftly. The heater was condemned, switched off and we were instructed never to switch it on again. When I asked the engineer “What’s the worst case scenario here?” (meaning, how long would we be without hot water or heating) and he replied “death” I didn’t really understand what he meant.
But now I do. Now I understand what happened. Those types of heaters go up into the loft. There’s a pipe, the flue which pumps out all the bad fumes into the air outside. Ours had rusted and had broken away. Those fumes were pumping into the loft. The loft hatch? Right outside my bedroom door.
Almost every night I take myself off to bed early, and Shaun stays downstairs watching tv with the heating on, as you would. So the heating is on, I’m in bed, the fumes are being pumped… I mean, it really doesn’t bear thinking what could have happened.
We are extremely lucky.
What could have made a difference here? A few things.
- Recognising the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Most of them are easily mistaken for something else.
- Having an annual Gas Safety Check. I don’t know why ours didn’t happen when it should have.
- Having Carbon Monoxide detectors in all the right places in your house. It never occurred to me that the fumes were being pumped into the loft and outside from there – so all our detectors were downstairs.
We never took the time to study and understand our heating system – well, why would you? But actually, it could save a life – knowing where to put a carbon monoxide detector is important. Everyone will think about the kitchen and near the boiler – but it never occurred to us we should have one upstairs as well.
Needless to say, we’ve moved, we know what is what in this house. We part-own our house so all Gas Safety Checks are organised by us – and I keep on top of when they’re due thanks to the alerts you can sign up for at gassaferegister.co.uk
I will never stop talking about what happened as it’s so important to spread the word. You don’t think it would be you – none of us do. However, it so easily can be.